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Octoraro Creek, Pennsylvania

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Designated for conservation efforts in 1983 as one of 13 Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers, Octoraro Creek is a 22-mile-long tributary of the massive Susquehanna River, the longest river to drain into the Atlantic on the Eastern coast. Octoraro Creek includes three branches that are less than 20 miles in length: the main branch, the West branch and the East branch, which is where this image was taken. The East branch also forms the southern half of the border between Lancaster and Chester counties until crossing into Maryland at the Mason-Dixon Line, which separates Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia. The Octoraro passes under the picturesque Mercer’s Mill Covered Bridge in Atglen, as well, another classic location for nature photographers to explore. Along the banks of the creek you’ll find luscious woods and expansive farmland.

The climate along Octoraro Creek is the same as most of the surrounding Pennsylvanian areas, with average daytime temperatures ranging up to 90º F in the summer, with lows of 10º F during winter. The weather in Eastern Pennsylvania is always photographer-friendly, for the most part. Make a quick check of the conditions before heading out, and usually the forecast will be very dependable. I personally like shooting water scenes like these on a soft overcast day because it allows me to capture the complete dynamic range in a single frame, and colors are really saturated, which is especially nice during the fall.

Photo Experience
Eastern Pennsylvania has a combination of pristine Amish farmland and rolling hills to point your camera toward, so if you have focal-length coverage from a wide-angle lens (10-24mm) to a midrange telephoto (24-70mm), that should be more than enough to send you home with outstanding images. For autumn images of Octoraro Creek, I use a circular polarizer with a wide-angle lens and position myself extremely low, exaggerating the overall dynamics of the scene. Anytime I’m working around water, my circular polarizer is a necessity, as it helps to reduce glare and enhance the colors. With my camera firmly mounted on my Gitzo tripod, I often shoot longer exposures that allow me to capture that “cotton candy,” smooth water look. A pair of waders for scenes like this is also helpful. They allow you to get much more up close and personal with your subjects by wading into the creek to find the perfect angle. Having a solid backpack is essential for hiking into a good, remote location, and it’s rare that I leave without my Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW. This bag provides amazing comfort and protection against the elements. I’ve been in some serious weather and never once worried about my gear getting wet or damaged.

Best Times
Two of my favorite seasons to shoot along Octoraro Creek are spring and autumn. These seasons complement the ordinary backgrounds by bringing to life the charming ambience of the area. Spring, of course, allows you to capture the fresh greens of new life sprouting along the banks of the creek while autumn is the most colorful season and, needless to say, my absolute favorite.

Contact: Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources,

Essential Gear

Heliopan Slim Circular Polarizer

Polarizers are an amazing tool for bringing out fall colors. They optically enhance color saturation while making clouds more pronounced by reducing the effects of glare and haze in the atmosphere. Polarizers provide a way to control reflections on nonmetallic surfaces like water and windows, and though adding the filter will reduce incoming light, that means that a polarizer also can be used as a neutral-density filter for extending depth of field or slowing down shutter speed to add slow-motion blur. Warming polarizers even can add a touch of sunlight.